Is “Chink In The Armor” Offensive If There’s No Bad Intent?

Is “Chink In The Armor” Offensive If There’s No Bad Intent?

As you may have read, one ESPN employee was fired for using the phrase “Chink in the armor” following a loss by the Jeremy Lin lead New York Knicks.  The phrase appeared as the lead headline on the ESPN mobile web page.  An ESPN broadcaster was also suspended 30 days for using that phrase during an interview with former Knicks player Walt Frazier.

The broadcaster who was suspended clearly was not trying to make a pun when he used that phrase.  He swears that there was not a bad intention at all when he said that phrase and it clearly was made in reference to the fact that Lin had lots of turnovers in the games he played.  Beyond that, his wife is Asian and while I don’t know the broadcaster personally, I tend to believe him that he would never say anything that his wife or the Asian community would find offensive.  His suspension seems to be political correctness run amok and you can bet it wouldn’t have happened if the web page headline hadn’t been written.  It's not as if "chink in the armor" is always an offensive phrase compared to someone using the N word, kike or something else that can only have a racist meaning (and no, this is not a challenge to see if you can use those words in a good way).

The guy who wrote the headline has apologized profusely and said that he’s especially upset because being a Christian is the most important thing in his life and he admires that Jeremy Lin lives the same way.  He did seem to understand why he was fired.  His problem of course is that the headline clearly came off as an offensive pun whether he intended to do it or not.  In his defense, he said that he has used that phrase on the ESPN website more than 100 times.  Maybe he’s guilty of laziness or a lack of creativity instead of racism.  And clearly if the phrase was used in the past, it never bothered anyone because the double meaning wasn’t there.

ESPN is certainly within their rights under the law to fire or suspend these guys.  If it was a crime, they would have had to prove intent, but this isn’t the case when it comes to employment law.  But it sure seems like the announcer is getting a raw deal, especially if gets associated with anything negative in his career path.  The editor who came up with the bad headline is certainly a more justifiable termination.  Even if he had no bad intent, it’s his job to know that it could be perceived as offensive.  And if you are a family biz like ESPN, you don’t want anyone to be offended.

So legally intent means nothing, but it certainly should be a part of the decision making process if you ask me.

Beyond that, as someone who never found the Charlie Sheen movement the least bit interesting or entertaining, I do have Linsanity.  Sunday was the first time in years that I watched a NBA game with interest that didn’t involve the Bulls.  But I'm not as excited as the girl in the photo. 

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  • It does seem like no matter what the person charged with the offense says, a knee jerk decision is made and that's the end of it. While I was shocked when I first heard the phrase in relation to Lin, the profuse apology coupled with the fact that his wife is Asian made me believe him immediately.
    Of course, a lot of racism is based purely on ignorance, but in this case, given that the guy in question would have been very attuned to racism against Asians at least, it seems like the wrong person is taking the blame here, if any should be meted out at all.

  • Thanks. We do certainly live in a react and then investigate type of society. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous the suspension seems.

  • ESPN is concerned only with rehabilitating its image after this ugly event. It didn't matter to them whether the author intended to harm or cause pain, only that his actions did cause that pain and brought them bad press. It's certainly within their right to fire an at will employee, but it doesn't raise them in my esteem.

  • I know someone who uses the "n" word frequently but she always says "well not in a bad way". luckily for her, she runs her own business.

    He deserved to be fired and maybe he'll think twice about using an ethnic slur - with or without intent.

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    He didn't use an ethnic slur, he used a common expression that has appeared in every major publication in the United States without anyone blinking an eye.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    I'VE never used this "common expression". There's a lot of expressions that are no longer used as they are offensive and insensitive. Seeing "nothing wrong" with an ethnic slur (or justifying its usage) is just as bad as using the slur.

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    What an odd thing to say. Just because you've never used it doesn't make it uncommon. I've never done and heard about lots of things but I'm pretty sure things exist beyond what I currently know.

    Again, chink in the armor is not an ethnic slur. It simply isn't no matter how righteous you are.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    My point about racism being based on ignorance, can be used here too. When people who have a limited vocabulary, jump all over a word they've either never heard or don't understand, it's just as bad. We can't stop using words just because the people who claim never to have heard them object and can't be bothered to look the word up. Nor should people be penalized for the ignorance of others, as has happened here.
    This happened years ago with the word "niggardly", which means miserly, or stingy. I doubt you'd ever find anyone using it these days because it sounds too much like the N word.
    ESPN would probably do more for its image if they stood up and explained what the damn word meant and how many times the phrase had been used before.
    Can I say "damn"? Let's see. Who might I be offending? It sounds a bit like Danish, or perhaps.....

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    Except this really is a common expression that has been used for centuries and and expression which has nothing to do with racial slurs. A "chink" in this situation refers to an opening and, this is straight from the dictionary: a crack, cleft, fissure." A chink in the armour means a hole in a piece of armour, a place where an enemy's weapon could get through and injure the wearer. Also: "to fill up chinks" menas to plug that hole. Chinking refers to filling up the holes, such as those made when you build a log cabin and you must fill up the gaps between the logs.

    A chink is also, and again I quote the dictionary: "a short, sharp ringing sound as of coins or glasses striking together."

    So this is not at all a derogatory word or remark used in these specific contexts and I think this guy was really referring to the first definition in the sense of the player being a hole in the team defense.

    Now, I'm not so naive that I don't realize the word can be used in a derogatory sense but it is by no means always used that way. It's a legitimate word and phrase depending on the context. And it is rather common even in this day and age.

  • As a teacher I would tell my students that ignorance is no excuse. I agree that the phrase may not necessarily have a racial intent, but used in the context in which it was used it did. Any intelligent person with a modicum of sense should have been able to understand that. I am tired of people always trying to justify their offensiveness by saying they didn't know. Well guess what? You should have known. I'm with you goofyjj. He's got to go if nothing else than as a lesson for others to think before they say or do something offensive. Gone are the days when people can just spout off any derogatory thing they please. Furthermore, I have a very hard time believing he did not know what he was saying was wrong.

  • In reply to Dwharris2909:

    The ESPN anchor used the expression on a Wednesday, it wasn't even noticed until three days afterwards when the web site headline was written.

    So for three days everyone who heard it either has no problem with racist comments or, just perhaps, nobody thought there was anything racial about it.

  • I get your point on the guy who wrote the headline but what about the announcer that just used the phrase? Do you not see the difference?

  • I have since seen the same phrase used in print by others referring to different subject matter. It is an old-time common phrase that has been used for years without having a racial meaning. This is a totally offbase reaction to fire someone for using it since it was not meant to harm or demean.

  • I am an Asian. It is ridiculous to terminate a job for this. We are going to develop a society of robots who cannot understand a situation and apply everything as black and white. Plus, you have ESPN which is a sham company and will do anything to make sure their money pipeline is not compromised. This is the network which aired "The Decision" by LeBron and is the very definition of "hypocrisy" in terms of they how they sell sports.
    That said, you can think the other way too. You have people who will not know where to stop with the insults if it is not nipped in the bud. Letting this go will mean something meaner/uglier will happen in the future.

  • It is interesting to me that the only comment that is concerned with the hypersensitivity of the "word" is from a teacher. Gone are the days when a person can say what they THINK, apparently. This is the new school.

  • If you think about all this, the reaction to the word and the decision to fire the guy, is all based on the assumption that Asians are offended. Has anyone heard from Lin himself? Was he offended? Was anyone actually offended? Has anyone who might have been offended rejected the apology?

    Given that the guy in question has made a profuse and very public apology, along with the fact that his circumstances make him very unlikely to slur Asians, it's a shame that the "assumption" couldn't have gone the other way.

  • Once on the Internet Movie Database, I posted a comment that contained the term "chink in the armor" and IMDb actually edited out the word "chink". I changed the term to "weakness in the armor". On a dating site, I put in the word "cocktail" and it was edited to "****tail". On a political show about balancing a budget, someone used the word "niggardly" which means to be stingy and some black people took exception to that. Sometimes, political correctness just plain goes crazy!

  • We have a society where a 4th grade child will still get a worksheet with gay as a vocabulary word with the original meaning lively or carefree but if they were to call a classmate that, meaning what they had learned on their vocabulary sheet they'd be expelled from school before having a chance to explain their confusion.
    The firing was an over reaction. Discussion, new policies on use of words etc was what should have been done because had it been used in relation to any non-Asian player, no one would have said the word. In a way that is the most insidious kind of discrimination, allowing use in one context and not another. Either it is usable, or it isn't.

  • The word chink appears in Shakespeare's plays at least 5 times, long before the 1860s. It means hole or opening in a wall or other object. Does no one understand word origins anymore? Are we all defined by our limited understanding of words and our own fears and prejudices? Ridiculous.

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